Q.P. Resource Access Roads Framework May 16, 2013

Question re:    Resource Access Roads Framework

Mr. Silver:    Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Highways and Public Works. In 2012, the minister introduced for public consultation a new Resource Access Roads Framework. It outlines the goals and principles that guide decisions around the development and management of resource access roads in the Yukon.

The purpose of this framework is to outline processes and provide guidance to regulators, industry and the public. While there was a great deal of hoopla when this consultation was first announced, there has never been any public confirmation that the framework has been adopted as official government policy.

Can the minister confirm that the Resource Access Roads Framework is now an official policy of this government?

Hon. Mr. Istchenko:    The Resource Access Roads Framework is just what it is — it is a framework. It is not a policy. It’s a set of guidelines for industry, so when industry looks to develop and come to us to talk about roads, they have done their consultation with the communities, with the First Nations, with the local resource councils and other key stakeholders.

This is sort of a bit of a framework to let industry know that if they want to work with the government on capital improvements for some of these roads, they can come and see and work with us as long as they’ve done their homework up front. This doesn’t supersede YESAA or anything else like that. We have $500,000 — and you’ll notice it in the budget. I’m hoping the member opposite does vote for the budget, because a lot of the industry up in Dawson is looking for resource access roads money, but we have that in place for the smaller scale operations, but this framework was set up just as I alluded to there.

Mr. Silver:    Western Copper and Gold is in Yukon this week talking to people about the Casino mine project. The final 120-kilometre stretch to this mine site today is just a dirt road. Western Copper and Gold has plans to spend $100 million upgrading this road to make it an all-season highway. Under the terms of the new resource access road framework, the government says it may share the cost with the proponent, or require the proponent to cover all associated costs of the new resource access road. The decision as to which scenario applies will be based on an analysis of net economic benefit occurring to Yukon from the proposed project.

Has any determination been made by this government with respect to the contributions to the upgrade of this road, and have any changes been made to the proposed rooting of this road recently?

Hon. Mr. Istchenko:    There has been no commitment from this government on partnering on that road. The idea behind the Resource Access Roads Framework was exactly what I alluded to earlier about Western Copper contacting the department. We had suggested to them that they talk to the local resource councils, First Nations and the communities that are going to be affected by a project like that, so they can look at the different routes and they hopefully meet the requirements the community wants. So nothing for us — we have a portion of the Freegold mine road that is ours, on which there is existing maintenance, but they’re going to have to be responsible for that section. We work in cooperation with Economic Development, Energy, Mines and Resources and Executive Council Office on such huge projects. That’s where the proponent would come to see the government and have these discussions with us.

Mr. Silver:    He didn’t allude to any of the proposed rerouting. I’ll give him a chance to answer that part of the question.

This summer, we have seen two major mining projects go sideways. Brewery Creek appeared to be off the table completely and Victoria Gold is delayed by a year. We also understand the exploration and development expenditures by mining companies will be much lower than last year — NRCan says approximately $112 million, down from $225 million last year, and according to some estimates, it could be as low as $75 million.

There will obviously be economic benefits to Yukoners if Casino mine is built. The $100 million road is bigger than the government’s annual highway construction budget with or without the Shakwak funding. The road would begin at Carmacks and end at the mine. What discussions, if any, has the minister had with Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation or the Selkirk First Nation regarding this potential road project?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:    Certainly this project continues to move forward but, as you’re aware, it is still in the early, early stages of this project. A project such as the Casino project, or any large project in Yukon, can have a tremendous benefit to Yukon and to all Yukoners, and we’ll continue to work together with the project and with the First Nations as this moves along. When we look at the economic climate in the territory when it comes to generating money for exploration, it is more difficult than it was a couple years ago, but that’s not just in Yukon; that is worldwide.

As we discussed and debated in a motion yesterday, on my tourism and trade mission, I’ll also have a component of that trip to continue to advocate and to promote Yukon as a good, solid investment for people who are looking to invest, as will the Minister of Economic Development through this summer and going forward continue to wave the Yukon flag, to talk about the strong support that this government has for economic development, to talk about the certainty there is by investing in the Yukon with a strong assessment process that we have, the strong permitting and regulatory process, the strong process in terms of inspections, and the fact that we do have great infrastructure. We have roads and we have an all-season port as well.